Games Review Thoughts 1 - Exploiting Opening Mistakes
Recently I decided that my chess hobby requires a bit more systematic approach. So, now I am playing 15|10 more seriously then before and always analyze them with engine afterwards. (I still play 2|1 and 10|0 games when I just want to relax and have fun, but 15|10 is where I try to be serious).
This simple improvement in my approach allowed me to reach 1500 rating really fast, and I've been struggling to do that for some time already.
So, I decided to go one step further and do a really deap review of my last 50 games with fully written report for each game, main mistakes, ways to improve in future and so on...
Most of my findings are obvious and well known to me. For example: I really need some new opening against Sicillian, or I tend to relieve the pressure in the position in my opponent's favor when I can't find a good move, etc. But there is one really unexpected fact I found, that is: "I could have gained tremendous advantage in the opening in near 80% of my games. Instead I was too focused on main opening tasks they teach you, like: develop your pieces, castle, and so on. I simply didn't even bother myself with trying to exploit my opponent's mistakes in the opening. Instead I just did automatic mechanical moves without any thinking".
So this post will be interesting for those playing at 1200-1600. Guys, based on what I see in my games with you, we all really suck in the opening, and let me show you a few examples below.
This position is a well known classic. One player rated 1450 made that mistake and another player of the same rating didn't notice it. I couldn't believe my eyes later when I analyzed this game but yes, I missed it. Check it yourself on diagram below, when you know it's there - its obvious, and you must be thinking that me and my opponents are really silly.
In this one white has got that common irritating fork threat and looks more active and developed at the moment. In the game I automatically played Na6 protecting from a fork. Instead there is a very well known thematic move which allows protect from fork, develop a piece and put pressure on opponent. Can you find it? (Ofcourse you can its simple when you know its there).
Well, in position below there is only one move which changes engine's evaluation from equal to Black's advantage. Can you find it?
Hint: there is tactics theme here, but still you don't win any material, but resolve all you positional problems instead.
This one I didn't miss and found in the game. It just can't be more easy then that.
In diagram below Black is already under pressure and without space. In the game I castled. Can you find more active developing move which gives Black more activity and better play in middlegame?
Okay, this one is just a blunder by opponent. I have a lot of those bit I am showing you examples taken from 15 analyzed games, which were played in a row (so I am not choosing specific games to prove my point here). And in 12 of those games decisive advantage could have been obtained in the opening. As a metter of fact I'll show you only 8 of those 12 games, because in others, my opponents or I blundered badly and were mated till move 15. So, this is example of such game. Win material in a position below.
In this position I played usual Nf6 developing a piece and preparing castling. I missed a devastating move for my opponent (well, I didn't even try to find it, turns out I play opening mechanically. Indeed, who spends precious time on opening moves? *sarcasm*). Can you find it?
In position below black just captured a pawn in center, in a game I automatically recaptured with a pawn. Find better move.
Hint: This position differs from others, because its really difficult to solve. Original idea of this post was to show that it's easy to find those winning opening moves and exploit opponents mistakes. Here it's not the case. Still, second best move is easy and gives you very comfortable edge over opponent and pleasant middlegame which shouldn't last long.
For the last position today I saved up something else. Here it's not about gaining advantage in the opening. It's about how analyzing your games can teach you new neat ideas.
I occasionally get into positions like the one below. And, well, do same stuff: Be3. Every time I do that, I feel awfull, because Bishop isn't feeling good there. "But what elese can I do?" - I ask myself and go for Be3.
Well now, thanks to engine analysis I know the answer and I probably would never have found it on my own. What about you? Do you know a good plan for White here?
So, to conclude this blog post lets summarize what this all was about:
1. Simple observation shows that in 70%-80% of games at 1200-1600 level you can obtain good (usually decisive) advantage in the opening, because of your opponent's mistakes. And we are talking about obvious and simple mistakes which are easy to find.
2. You shouldn't only make sure that you play accordingly to opening principles, but each time when you notice your opponent violating them - punish him. Spend some time and figure out how, but punish him and win the game
Hopefully I too will use my own reccomendations and my game will improve.